Report from the Imaginal Field

By: William E. Thompson
Tucson, Arizona 

The Sensitivity of Initial Conditions. Acrylic on canvas. 36″ x 30″

Having just completed the first full calendar year of our LIVING IMAGE Dream Group here in Tucson I felt it was time to report-in to the larger collective of my fellow dreamtenders. I want to share with all of you the evolution of these first 14 months of my Tucson group, and perhaps transmit some sense of the goodness and health of this group of dedicated dreamers.

We met for the first time in November 2015, the month immediately following the last four-day session of the 2015 Dream Tending Certificate Program with Steve Aizenstat at Pacifica. The first meeting of the new group here was also just days after I returned home from Pacifica and my full participation in the glorious COMING HOME TO THE BODY, a three-day celebration of Marion Woodman’s legacy. In fact, four of the people at the new group’s first meeting had attended these special days at Pacifica being together among the spirit of Marion’s work. The anima was alive and well at our initial Tucson gathering.

We meet once a month except for July and August when we have a summer hiatus. For the first year (November 2015 – June 2016) we met on Thursday evenings from 6:00 – 9:00pm. This second year runs from August (2016) through June 2017. And we are meeting on Sunday evenings for the same three hour time together.

As some of you know I have facilitated dream groups in the past. With two fellow lovers of the dream I began a Gay Men’s Dream Group in January of 2006. That group continued with great dedication and passion for seven years through several iterations until January of 2013. I also co-led a Women’s Dream Group that evolved from a meditation group that met in my home that was initially based on the teachings of Ramana Maharshi. The two groups met collectively four times for four Saturday afternoons together over the lifespan of the Women’s Group. The co-facilitator of the Women’s Group was a woman who began her studies within the Masters in Counseling Psychology Program at Pacifica soon after the group began. This group ran from September of 2007 through February of 2009.

This current LIVING IMAGE Dream Group has been quite different in some ways from these previous groups. And as with the past groups, this newer group was never fully opened to the public. Participation has been by invitation of one sort or another. And the groups have all required a commitment to be either “on or off the bus.” I charged a fee per session for the first year of this new group, and I decided to discontinue the fee by the time we had started up again in August. The charge began to feel inaccurate and cumbersome. After spending eight months together walking hand-in-hand with each other’s psyches, I felt that the money exchange was creating an unnecessary differential. So I dropped the fee. And while I can’t say that this fee shift is directly related to the experienced cohesiveness and deepening of the group this fall, it certainly feels right and I have no plans of re-introducing a dollar exchange.

It has taken just about a year of working together for the group to distill down to a core of dedicated dreamers who share a clear sense of our purpose and common mission in coming together.

Currently the group has six members (and I include myself in that count). I begin each group with a reading of one sort or another – often poetry, often something from my own personal dreamwork and musings, and sometimes something from Corbin or Hillman or Woodman or Aizenstat. This last session, December 18th, I read to the group Steve’s recent letter to us that was in the Dream Tending Newsletter of December 6th. It felt great to include the members of my Tucson group with the larger community in this way. The members of my LIVING IMAGE Dream Group here in Tucson are connected to all of you, and to the larger body of dream tenders and visionaries. Through the grace of our connection to the imaginal we are also known to one another.

Many of the participants in the Tucson LIVING IMAGE Dream Group are also regulars at my every-other-month Relational ONE DAYs. The shared experience of the phenomenological aspects of these all day workshops are very helpful in tending dream in the evening groups.

The dream group members have varied backgrounds. They are known to me through a number of roles – as colleagues, clients, fellow community members, and friends.

Within our three hours together we usually have time to tend two dreams. And though we bounced around a bit before finding center over this past year, our structure looks fairly traditional. I am the tender; and I tend one dream at a time with the dreamer sitting close to me – not so different than the kind of fishbowl model we use in our sessions with Steve, just not as large a group. The dreamer and I are a dyad within the circle. After initial readings and comments, the group moves into a facilitated and fairly organic flow of sharing what images are with them and what possibly might be showing-up for tending. This is a group process that allows a kind of “checking-in” through the sharing from the individuals’ imaginal lives. Often synchronicities of experience are noted and supported. And from the collective a dream or image (sometimes a waking dream or image) rises to be tended. And then, after the first tending and a brief break, we move into a second tending. The choice of this second tending is influenced, of course, by the first piece of work, and also by the amount of time remaining in the session.

The God Survives His Death in the Vessel of Our Soul. Acrylic and ink on canvas. 30″ x 36″

Lastly, I will say that my work is my work. As all of us do, I have my own ways and influences. My ongoing work as an abstract painter influences my imaginal work greatly. My years of training in psychodramatic technique, sociometry and role theory can often be seen in the way I approach the tending of a dream. My phenomenological background in Systemic Constellation Work often puts the dream into a field perspective that includes all who are present, seen and unseen. And my professional influences as a former body therapist and breath worker cannot help but be in the field. And probably the largest bias in my work that is not necessarily pure Dream Tending is my professional training and current practice as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. So, my Tucson group does see and learn Dream Tending through these particular lenses. And, this is one reason that I differentiate and call my work, LIVING IMAGE Dream Work. Having said all that, Steve’s teaching is probably the largest influence in my dream work. And I am immensely grateful for all that I have received and integrated through my association with Steve (and Marion) and Pacifica over the years.

By: William E. Thompson